new media: August 2005 Archives

He being brand new

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You would think, given how little I tend to appreciate the Chronicle's effort to scare up attention when it comes to technology, that I might be thrilled to see an article (Michael Bugeja's "Master (or Mistress) of Your Domain") that appears to take a more generous approach to matters technological. And you would be right, to an extent. You would have to set aside, temporarily, the allusion that the title of the article summons up for me, an allusion to a particular Seinfeld episode.

A larger issue for me, I suppose, is that there's something about this essay that feels a little off. At first, I thought it was the degree to which the piece itself, about the virtues of self-promotion, is itself engaged in a great deal of self-promotion, touting the author's own work, his colleagues, his websites, etc. I'm a little turned off by the paternalism implicit in statements like "I'm responsible for the academic fates of some eight assistant professors hoping to earn tenure," I suppose, or the offer to turn a related domain over to Tim Berners-Lee.

My broader issue is that there's something subtly crass (if that's not an oxymoron) in the way this process is described here. I don't necessarily disagree with many of the points that Bugeja makes, but the whole process feels backwards to me. Instead of thinking about how the net might challenge the processes by which academia operates, what's offered is a description of how the net can extend the system and/or exploit it for as long as our colleagues remain unaware of how it works. Some of my regular reads (Chris Anderson, David Weinberger, Hugh MacLeod, et al.) are doing exactly what Bugeja advocates, but they're not doing it to promote sales of already-completed books--they invite us to participate in the shaping of those books.

I think this is my point, and my sticking point, with the language of branding to describe the transmedia strategy offered by this essay. The people who are using the net in genuinely innovative ways are using it to change the ways books are written (not to mention challenging the value of "books" in the first place--see Lessig & Gilmor, for example), while this feels to me more like an attempt to preserve a print economy. Here are a couple of the reasons that Hugh writes that branding is dead:

"Branding" is backwards looking. It's all about capturing past associations. It's never about what the business could become, but protecting what came before.

"Branding" is all about articulating top-down, hierarchal control of the conversation. "This is what it means." It's EGOlogy, not ECOlogy.

Come to think of it, these two points pretty much capture the sum total of my unease with this article. I think I'll just stop here.

[via Becky, Steve, & John]



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This page is a archive of entries in the new media category from August 2005.

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